Kent McLoughan waits his turn ... takes aerial aimed for him which slips through Hale Irwin's fingers, then wheels to race for the first Nebraska score. JOHN SAVAGE/THE WORLD-HERALD
BOULDER, Colo. — Saved by its marauding defenders until the attack unit was able to settle down, Nebraska Saturday slapped Colorado, 21 to 3, and climbed into a tie with Kansas for the Big Eight football lead.
A homecoming crowd of 42,900 sat in sharp sunny weather and marveled as the audacious Buffaloes got the jump on the Cornhuskers for a third straight year.
In repayment for the grandeur of their scenery and the warmth of their off-field hospitality, the Coloradans deserved the brief satisfaction that came with Frank Rogers’ 21-yard field goal in the opening quarter.
Eventually, however, Nebraska buckled down to convincingly secure its sixth victory of the year and thirteenth straight in the longest string of modern times.
Among the most impressive Huskers were Center Lyle Sittler and Corner Back Joe McNulty, both of whom were celebrating their twenty-second birthdays.
Sittler’s fine performance included a powerhouse charge that led Quarterback Bob Churchich across the goal line for the third touchdown.
McNulty was credited with three tackles, four assists and one fumble recovery in setting a lively pace for the defiantly proud defensive Black Shirts.
So often did McNulty or Mike Grace or Tuffy Barnes of Langston Coleman crash through to pin a Buff runner, Colorado lost three more yards than it gained on the ground.
Kent McCloughan increased his point total to 56, scoring again on the type of ricochet pass that beat Minnesota and later trotting across for a two-point conversion.
But the only true gem of consistency in the N.U. offense was Fullback Frank Solich, who is scheduled to be saluted nationally by Sports Illustrated this week.
Frank squirmed and dashed for 63 yards, by far the best effort of any back in the game. Next high for Nebraska was McCloughan, with 20 yards on 10 carries.
Ben Howe’s 10 yards were high for the losers.
“We expected a tough game and we got it,” said Coach Bob Devaney, grateful to have this one out of the way.
In the first half, Nebraska gave up the ball on two interceptions and one fumble. Slightly more than 18 minutes elapsed before the Huskers could post their initial first-and-10.
During this frustrating phase of the game, the defense was borrowing time. Colorado lost 19 more yards than it gained during the first two quarters.
When John Marchiol picked off a pass by Churchich early in the opening period, Colorado lined up just 17 yards from the N.U. goal line. After nine plays, the ball was on the four — and it was fourth down.
Rogers kicked the goal from the 11.
The Huskers’ first penetration of Colorado territory came in the early minutes of the second quarter when Churchich pegged to End Tony Jeter for 12 yards and the long-sought first down on the C.U. 48.
Solich picked up eight yards, but an offside penalty shoved Nebraska back to its 47.
Churchich then hurled the ball to McCloughan. The pass was just short enough for Buff Hale Irwin to get it in his hands. It squirted on through, however, and McCloughan made a second-hand reception on the 22.
Since the Broken Bow flyer already was a stride behind Irwin, it was easy for him to race on over.
Although Nebraska was penalized five yards to the eight for illegal procedure, Duncan Drum’s kick sailed true for a 7-to-3 advantage.
That’s all Nebraska could show at the half. One drive reached the C.U. 19, at which point a pass from Churchich to Freeman White was short. Irwin intercepted on the eight.
McNulty gave N.U. another good shot at the enemy when he grabbed Estes Banks’ fumble on the Buff 13. However, three downs later, End Ray LeMasters stole the ball from Churchich.
Aside from his early misfortunes, sophomore Churchich wound up with a good day’s aerial production. He completed nine of 14 passes for 154 yards.
Solich turned in some of his greatest running during a 53-yard surge that ended with a punt by Ron Kirkland from the Colorado 42 in the third quarter.
Nebraska demonstrated on that series that it was capable of playing steadier football than it had been showing.
Grace soon claimed a fumble by Quarterback Bernie McCall on the C.U. nine with 1:14 remaining in the third period. Gadfly Solich buzzed for seven. He ran into a tackler on the next play, pivoted away and lunged over for a touchdown.
Nebraska tried a two-point conversion pass that failed when Churchich was pulled down on a hard rush.
In the fourth quarter, Colorado never saw sod beyond its own 38.
The final touchdown came after Harry Wilson made a fair catch of a 42-yard boomer by Sam Harris. The latter, a six-foot-four son of a Honolulu detective, averaged 39.9 on 10 punts — certainly one of the Colorado highlights.
Nebraska drove 80 yards with Churchich providing solid leadership.
On the first play after Wilson’s catch, Bill Johnson of Stanton scooted nine yards and then retired. He’s a defensive halfback.
The prize “float” in the parade was a pass from Churchich to Wilson which covered 30 yards. Another Churchich pass, this to Jeter, was good for 12 yards and a first down on the five.
Wilson moved to the two. McCloughan was no more than 14 inches short of a touchdown bucking the right side. Then Churchich followed Sittler over the goal line.
This time, Devaney got his bonus conversion.
Solich made one of his excellent fakes into the line while Chuchich pitched out to McCloughan. At 21 to 3, and with 4:20 to play, Nebraska could consider its mission accomplished.
Colorado had outdowned all previous opponents, including Southern California and Oregon State. But Nebraska outdowned Colorado, 17 to 2, on a day dedicated first to Gas House Gang defensive might — Cornhusker style.